Classic studies of lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and visual cortex (V1) in carnivores and primates have found that a majority of neurons in LGN exhibit a center-surround organization, while V1 neurons exhibit strong orientation selectivity and, in many species, direction selectivity. Recent work in the mouse and the monkey has discovered previously unknown classes of orientation- and direction-selective neurons in LGN. Furthermore, some recent studies in the mouse report that many LGN cells exhibit pronounced orientation biases that are of comparable strength to the subthreshold inputs to V1 neurons. These results raise the possibility that, in rodents, orientation biases of individual LGN cells make a substantial contribution to cortical orientation selectivity. Alternatively, the size and contribution of orientation- or direction-selective channels from LGN to V1 may vary across mammals. To address this question, we examined orientation and direction selectivity in LGN and V1 neurons of a highly visual diurnal rodent: the gray squirrel. In the representation of central vision, only a few LGN neurons exhibited strong orientation or direction selectivity. Across the population, LGN neurons showed weak orientation biases and were much less selective for orientation compared with V1 neurons. Although direction selectivity was weak overall, LGN layers 3abc, which contain neurons that express calbindin, exhibited elevated direction selectivity index values compared with LGN layers 1 and 2. These results suggest that, for central visual fields, the contribution of orientation- and direction-selective channels from the LGN to V1 is small in the squirrel. As in other mammals, this small contribution is elevated in the calbindin-positive layers of the LGN.
Keywords: area 17; lateral geniculate bodies; lateral geniculate body; motion; striate cortex; thalamocortical; thalamus.
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